Title: Donn’s Hill
Entry Nickname: The Ghost and Ms. Clair
Word count: 83K
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Grief changes you. It can rewire your brain and make you see the world around you through different eyes. For Mackenzie Clair, it awakened her ability to talk to the dead.
Mac is on a mission to reclaim some happiness. After losing her father to cancer and her boyfriend to infidelity, she needs a fresh start. She abandons the city life and relocates to the place where she had been happiest in her youth: Donn’s Hill, a small town in Middle America that’s best known for the séances at its annual Afterlife Festival and an abundance of paranormal activity.
Mac doesn’t get much time to acclimate to small-town living before the ghosts come knocking, forcing her to quickly come to terms with her newly discovered psychic powers. With the help of the ghost-hunting crew of the nationally televised TV show Soul Searchers and a spirited tortoiseshell cat named Striker, Mac becomes bold enough to do things she never imagined possible: investigate hauntings, banish poltergeists, and generally feel happy again.
Unfortunately, in the midst of Mac’s journey of self-discovery, someone is killing off the residents of Donn’s Hill. She learns she’s a magnet for dead bodies, and in the weeks leading to the Afterlife Festival, corpses are piling up. Determined to use her abilities to do some good in the world, Mac must decide whether to leave town for her own safety or stay and try to identify the killer before she winds up joining the ranks of the ghosts wandering the town.
Someone was sitting on my bed.
I didn’t know how he had gotten past the locks—I’d made sure the deadbolt was turned and the chain was fastened before I’d gone to bed—but that was a question for later. Right now the more important questions were “Who is he?” and “What does he want from me?”
It couldn’t be anything good. People who want to do good things usually knock.
He smelled foul, like rotting garbage. I felt his weight press down on the right side of the thin mattress. My body wanted to roll toward that lower point, but I held myself in place. I didn’t want to touch whoever it was. I held my breath and strained my ears to hear his breathing.
I heard nothing but the hum of a car passing on the highway.
Several thoughts pinged around inside my skull and crashed into each other. What’s going on? Is he holding his breath too? Are we locked in some kind of silent contest, the loser being the one who passes out?
Taking a chance, I opened one eye a tiny bit, creating a narrow slit between my eyelids. The motel room was pitch-black, thanks to the ancient heavy curtains and my having unplugged the digital alarm clock. Keeping my arm under the covers, I crept my left hand toward the nightstand.
Slowly, I told myself. Don’t make a sound.
Faster! my lungs screamed at me.
Title: Death of a Spider
Entry Nickname: Origin of a Fixer
Word count: 99K
Genre: Legal Thriller
How can lawyer Jimmy Sullivan obtain a key found in a murder victim’s stomach from the police evidence locker? Jimmy has to come up with a solution that crosses yet another line. He’s been crossing them ever since he took on the Harry Miles’ estate.
When Harry's young widow walks into his office, Jimmy wonders right away if she could be a problem for him. She is a alluring, seemingly vulnerable and needs his help to get what she wants. But when she hands him a sealed letter with coded instructions, the widow becomes the least of his concerns. The letter leads Jimmy to a safety-deposit box containing $100,000 in cash and a plea from Harry to take on not only his legitimate estate. but his off-the-books arrangements. Jimmy owes Harry from way back, but should he be bound by that debt if he must risk disgrace and disbarment in carrying out Harry's wishes? Jimmy's hands tremble as he riffles his fingers through the stacks of hundreds as he makes up his mind to keep the money and take the case.
Soon Jimmy is drawn into and nearly consumed by the shadow life of a money launderer and serial blackmailer. Working for Harry brings him dead center into the cross hairs of a Chicago mob family, a Detroit gangster and a local Grand Rapids crime syndicate looking to use Jimmy or keep him quiet. With the help of some ethically flexible lawyer acquaintances and an ex-marine bodyguard, Jimmy races to find Harry's secret blackmail book and turn the tables on the gangsters hunting him—or risk ending up in a box like Harry.
First 250 words:
I found out about the death of Harry Miles by text.
My ex-wife and I were squared off across a table at a diner on the east side of Grand Rapids off the Beltline. It wasn’t one of those hidden gem greasy spoons, but it was convenient, and we had never frequented it during our time together. Neutral ground. I was, in my humble estimation, winning our regular weekly argument when I received the text. It threw me off my game.
“What is it?” she asked with a dose of actual concern when I didn’t respond to one of her barbs about my not being able to take care of some bills I had promised to take care of. She was right, of course, about money being a problem, but that wasn’t really what she wanted to argue about. She just couldn’t bring herself to argue about the other thing, and I didn’t want that, either. So, unpaid bills became the main point of contention.
I stared at the text. It was from a blocked number. I had only picked up the phone out of habit when it had beeped. That, and I knew that it would drive Michelle crazy. The message from the unknown texter simply said, Harry Miles died today. And then, as I watched it, trying to figure out what was going on, it buzzed again, and a new message popped up. Just thought you should know…